Surgeons Perform Most Extensive Face Transplant To Date

Physicians at NYU Langone Medical Center have announced the successful completion of the most extensive face transplant to date, setting new standards of care in this emerging field.

Patrick Hardison – a volunteer firefighter who suffered a full face and scalp burn in the line of duty – became the first responder to have a face transplant performed.

Hardison’s face ‘melted’ off during a fire at a mobile home in Senatobia on September 5, 2001. In the painful years that followed, Hardison underwent 71 operations (at a rate of around seven a year) to try to rebuild his mouth, nose and eyelids using skin grafts.

This summer, doctors found a donor for a face transplant that matched Hardison’s skin tone: a 26-year-old man named David Rodebaugh who died in a cycling accident in August.

Hardison was given just a 50 percent chance of surviving the surgery but he was willing to take the risk. The surgery all went to plan and has left Hardison ‘feeling normal again’ and should restore his impaired sight, too.

Image credit: NYU Langone

Donor Heart Beats Outside Body for 10 Hours…

A donor heart has beat outside the body for 10 hours thanks to a new invention.

Approximately 5,000 heart transplants are performed around the globe annually, and although this form of surgery has become more efficient and routine, delivering donor organs has always been a race against time.

Iranian Professor Abbas Ardehali, head of Heart and Lung Transplant Ward in UCLA Hospital in the US, has managed to invent a device to keep donated organs alive outside of the human body for a longer period.

The new device preserves hearts for up to 10 hours after people have died, and could therefore dramatically increase the number of organs that can be donated.

Ardehali said the donated heart can stay alive for a maximum six hours outside of the human body in ice, which makes the surgery more complicated when the donated organ is to be transferred from long distances.

“I invented a device which helps preserve the donated heart for longer hours, which is about nine hours and 56 minutes and may increase to even 24 hours,” he said.

He referred to the device as a revolution in the field of heart transplant surgery, saying that it increases the survival rate among those suffering from heart failure.

“The invention of the new device is done for the first time in the world and no such thing has already been registered in the history of medical sciences,” Ardehali said.

“My device pumps blood through human hearts, allowing them to stay warm and survive longer during transport. This can help a donated heart stay alive for 10 hours outside the human body.”

The device has been approved by FDA. Other nations will be able to use the technology in the near future.

Image credit: University of Liverpool, Faculty of Health & Life Science

World First: the Woman with the Magnetic Spine

An Irish woman has become the first adult in the world to receive a revolutionary remote controlled ‘robo spine’.

Deirdre McDonnell was diagnosed with scoliosis as a newborn baby. After undergoing the first of many operations at just six weeks old, surgeons decided to try the pioneering MAGEC rod operation back in June 2014.

After three decades of living in pain with a 130 degree ‘C’ shaped spine, surgeons performed an operation that involved screwing magnetic rods in to Deidre’s spine. These rods can now be controlled externally to correct the curvature and straighten her spine.

Deirdre said: ‘The operation has completely changed my life. Before, I could only walk short distances without being in pain but now I love to walk everywhere.

‘After more than 30 years of operations and taking painkillers, I’m finally hopeful for the future.’

Up until now, the £15,000 procedure has only been performed on children, as it was thought only to be effective for early onset scoliosis – typically diagnosed before the age of ten.

Thanks to the success of Deirdre’s operation, doctors are now hopeful that the bone implant will help other adults, many of whom have undergone a number of unsuccessful and painful invasive surgeries in an attempt to straighten and lengthen their spine.

Image credit: Kevin O’Mara

Implant Allows for Paralysed Rats to Walk Again

A new medical device attached to the spines of paralysed rats, has allowed for them to walk again.

Scientists have made a soft, flexible electrical implant that mimics the elasticity of the brain and spine’s protective tissue.

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology built the implant, called “e-dura,” after the dura mater, which is one of the layers of protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord.

The device delivers electrical and chemical stimulation to the brain and spine, and when implanted in paralysed rats, gave the animals the ability to walk again – with some help.

Previously, it had been difficult for scientists to find a way to connect an electronic device to the spinal cord without damaging it. One obstacle is that electronics are made of stiff materials, whereas the spinal cord and its protective covering are more flexible. The new flexible device moves with the animals, keeping the stimulation attached to their neural tissue. The implants also did not trigger an immune response, the team reports.

The results could have implications for long-term treatment of paralysis and certain diseases, such as Parkinson’s, in humans.

Image credit: Harraz

How Green Glowing Veins Could Make Blood Donation Easier…

The world faces a shortage of blood for lifesaving transfusions, and if you’ve ever given blood, you have likely experienced the discomfort of having a nurse struggle to find your vein. Now, however, a device has been created that shows a glowing map of our veins could make the whole process a lot easier, and trials of the technology have already begun in Australia.

The technology works by beaming harmless near-infrared light at your arm. Our veins contain a lot of deoxygenated haemoglobin, and because this is absorbed by infrared light, it creates an image of exactly where your veins are under the skin.

Importantly, the device can be used anywhere. It’s already used widely in hospitals and pathology clinics around the world to make it easier for patients to have blood taken, but now it’s also going to help those willing to donate blood.

While this technology is already used globally in clinical settings to assist practitioners in taking blood samples, it’s now being trialled on blood donors in Sydney by the Australian Red Cross. It’s hoped that reducing anxiety by quickly and easily finding veins without the painful prodding will make donors more likely to return. 300 first time donors and 600 returning donors between the ages of 18-35 will be included in the trial.

The Australian Red Cross is the first blood bank service in the world to trial this technology, and has already started using it in its Sydney clinics.

Watch the video of the device in action here - New Technology for the Blood Service

Image credit: Australian Red Cross

The Cortex Cast – the Future of Plaster Casts?

The Cortex Cast is a water-proof, light weight arm cast said to provide customisable support to the body as an alternative to traditional plaster casts.

Jake Evill, a recent university graduate in New Zealand, is the creator behind a revolutionary 3D printed arm cast whose provocative design is beyond eye-catching but lightweight, water-proof and inexpensive.

Called the Cortex Cast, his unique design uses a honeycomb structure similar to natural bone tissue to durably support and protect the body as an alternative to the bulk, weight and suffocation from ordinary plaster casts, according to Evill.

More importantly, he says, each cast is entirely custom-made to each user’s body to ensure the greatest support in areas most needed for healing, while comfortably following the contours of the hand and arm.

The unique prototype is the result of Evill’s senior design project at Victoria University in Wellington. Using a home-made 3-D scanner, crafted from an adapted X-Box Kinect system, he was able to produce a clear scan of his own arm, one recently broken and confined to a cast inspiring his design.

Today the Cortex Cast has peaked interest from orthopaedic surgeons in Europe and the U.S.